Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Tragedy in Portland

Weeks in Hate: Abq Jew has been deeply troubled by last week's hate attack in Portland, Oregon, The City of Roses. With all of you, his loyal readers, Abq Jew prays for healing.

As Abq Jew blogged in February (see Love Trumps Hate: 24 Hours), he himself has been the target of a hate attack. But that attack, in January, was only online and electronic.

Hateful words were spewed - but that's where the attack both started and stopped. Although he was not greatly concerned at the time, Abq Jew realizes that it might have ended differently.

Since the November election, The New York Times has been publishing a series of articles called This Week in Hate. Many of these articles have been written by editor, columnist (and novelist) Anna North.

Ms North wrote about the attack on Abq Jew on February 9, in Hateful Threats Against a Jewish Blogger. Just a few weeks later, she wrote about two other hate attacks - both of which were far scarier and way more unsettling.

And both of which ended - as well as such attacks can end.

Rajpreet Heir was the subject of Anna North's March 24 article, When Your Commute Includes Hearing ‘You Don’t Belong in This Country’. Her story begins -
Rajpreet Heir was taking the L train to a friend’s birthday party in Manhattan this month when a white man began shouting at her. 
“Do you even know what a Marine looks like?” the man asked Ms. Heir, who is pictured in the video above. “Do you know what they have to see? What they do for this country? Because of people like you.” 
He told Ms. Heir, who is Sikh and was born in Indiana, that he hoped she was sent “back to Lebanon” and said, “You don’t belong in this country.”
Ms Heir made a video about her experience, and later wrote about it for Cosmopolitan. In which she concludes -

It’s tiring to confront racism since no one wants to be told they’re racist. To be successful at school, at work, in life, it’s risky to be viewed as a troublemaker — a humorless person who keeps correcting others. Yet in remaining silent, you can start to feel as if you’re decaying. 
Throughout the day at work, people stopped to talk to me about the video. Their comments were similar to the ones I’d read on the internet but hearing them in real life gave them more weight. Like many people of color, I’d been storing away racist incidents and slights, not allowing myself to realize how much they’d taken a toll on me. To have people in my office, the country, and world at large acknowledge those experiences made me feel understood, happy, lighter. 
I know not everyone is in a situation that allows them to speak out and call out racism without consequence, but I’m glad I decide to tell my story despite my hesitation. Hopefully others will see that this can be the outcome and come forward too.
Ulises Ricoy was the subject of Anna North's March 29 article, ‘I’m an American, First and Foremost’. His story begins -
For Ulises Ricoy, the dean of arts and sciences of Northern New Mexico College in Española, N.M., it happened during a run. It was the day after the election, and he was running near the college campus when a truck with a Confederate flag license plate approached him. 
Two men yelled a racial slur at him and told him to “get out of this country.” They also threw a glass bottle full of liquid, which looked like it might be urine. The bottle struck him in the chest and some of the liquid splashed on his face. 
Prof. Ricoy was born in Austin, Tex., grew up primarily in Mexico, and returned to Texas for high school. There he got used to racial slurs and insults. But in the rural, largely Latino and Native American part of New Mexico where he’s lived for seven years, he’d never experienced anything like that until the incident in November.
Prof Ricoy's story concludes -
While Prof. Ricoy was alone when he was attacked, his colleagues at the college rallied around him when they heard what had happened. The college president even made an announcement condemning the incident. 
Though not everyone talks about it openly, Prof. Ricoy sees a lot of anxiety about the Trump administration in northern New Mexico. Several students who are recent immigrants from Mexico have come to him with their concerns. At the same time, he sees a sense of hope for the future. “That’s just the spirit of migrants,” he said. 
“We know adversity,” he explained. “This is just another challenge.”

The last article* Anna North has posted for This Week in Hate - After Hate Crimes, Victims Get Stuck With the Bill - was on April 26.

Abq Jew had begun to hope that the series had gone on hiatus; that Ms North had run out of material; that the declining number of hate attacks was coming closer and closer to zero.

And then came the tragedy in Portland.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and retired Army Sgt. Ricky Best were killed in the attack, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher is recovering from his injuries.

The New York Daily News wrote:
Portland stabbing survivor writes poem about horrific attack: 'I spat in the eye of hate and lived' 
She ran for her life and looked back to see “blood everywhere.” 
That’s what one of the teen girls at the center of the horrific Oregon train stabbing told a local television station. 
“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Destinee Mangum, 16, told KPTV, referring to white supremacist and alleged killer Jeremy Christian [yimach sh'mo]
“He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves,” she added.

The Jewish tradition does not teach that hate must be replaced by love; we are all human, and truly loving one another is just too much to ask.

But we should act as if we love one another. 
We should at least treat one another with respect.

Anna North has not run out of material. 

A makeshift memorial in Portland for the two men who were killed on a commuter train while defending two young women against anti-Muslim taunts.
Credit Terray Sylvester/Reuters
Click here for Anna North's latest article in This Week in Hate

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rosh Hodesh C'est Si Bon

Happy Sivan! Abq Jew doesn't always keep track of the Jewish New Moon. But when he does, it's because of something musically classy like this!

For the record:
  • C'est Si Bon (It's So Good) is a French popular song composed in 1947 by Henri Betti with the lyrics by André Hornez. The English lyrics were written in 1950 by Jerry Seelen. Click here for more than you ever wanted to know about the song.
  • Jolie Môme (Pretty Babe) French Band brings you the music of Edith Piaf and other renowned singers of the “chanson réaliste” era, with hits from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. The sound of the accordion gives a very Parisian atmosphere and complements the songbird vocals of French-Canadian born Myriam [Phiro]. The band is based in New York City and has made a name for itself in the French jazz, cabaret and vintage communities. Click here for even more.

The fact that it's Rosh Hodesh Sivan can, of course, only mean that the Festival of Shavuot (Weeks) is but days away, traditionally falling on the sixth (and here in חו״ל, also on the seventh) day of Sivan, a full 50 days since the second night of Pesach.

Abq Jew would like to point out that he does not read, write, speak, or in any way comprehend or communicate in French - the language, the land, or the people. But savoir faire? Abq Jew is full of it. At least, that's what he thinks people are saying.

In the meantime - c'est si bon!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Yosemite to Jerusalem

50 Years Ago: On this day, Jews all over the world celebrate. For on this day, fifty years ago, Jerusalem, the Eternal Capital of Israel, was reunited.

Video art was projected on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City on May 21, 2017,
during the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification
during the 1967 Six-Day War       
Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

In the days leading up to the Six Day War, in California's Yosemite Valley, about the only way to find out what was happening in the world was to read the daily newspapers that were trucked in from San Francisco. 

Radio didn't reach, and TV? - fuggetaboutit. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, apparently didn't think anyone at Yosemite should do anything but look at the natural wonders all around them.

But things were happening.

On May 16, Egypt moved its army into the Sinai
and demanded that UN peacekeepers withdraw.
On May 18, UN Secretary General U Thant acceded to the Egyptian demand.
On May 22, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping.
On May 26, President Johnson warned Israel not to attack first.

On Monday May 29, the United States observed Memorial Day. 

Abq Jew and his parents z"l spent the entire weekend at Yosemite National Park, doing what Jews all over the world were doing - watching, waiting, worrying.

Dr Yitzhak Yifat, Tzion Karasenti, and Chaim Oshri
May 2017, and in David Rubinger's iconic 1967 photograph

We all know how the war turned out - thanks to men like Dr Yitzhak Yifat, Tzion Karasenti, and Chaim Oshri, and many more who gave their lives so that the State of Israel might continue to live.

Remember this book?  (Yes, it helps if you're of a certain age.)  Abq Jew lost his copy many years ago (but is willing to buy yours!), and considers So Sorry We Won one of the happiest, truest books ever.

The website The Six Day War tells us about the aftermath of the war.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel was — in Defense Minister Moshe Dayan's famous phrase — "waiting for a telephone call" from Arab leaders. Israelis expected to hear that now, at last, their neighbors were ready to talk peace. 
Having escaped not only feared annihilation, but also winning a seemingly miraculous victory, Israel's leaders did two things: They vowed not to return to the vulnerable armistice lines of 1948 and '49 or to a divided Jerusalem, and yet to be "unbelievably generous in working out peace terms," as Foreign Minister Abba Eban put it. In direct talks with Arab countries, "everything is negotiable," he said.
What actually happened? The Khartoum Declaration.
Finally, the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. 
There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. 
Influenced by Nasser, "their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and 'maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.' 
And after that? Fifty years of history. Some things changed, but some things didn't. Abq Jew is sure you know all about it.

But back to The Paratroopers. Andrew Tobin, writing in The Forward, tells us -
Between June 5 and 15, in honor of the Six-Day War’s 50th anniversary, the three former paratroopers, now in their 70s, will re-create Rubinger’s photo in their first-ever tour of the United States — with stops at Jewish communities and other locations in the Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston and Baltimore areas. They will also recount some of the sacrifices that were made in the battle for Jerusalem.
And of the Battle for Jerusalem, and The Photograph, Mr Tobin writes -
The paratroopers rushed forward amid sniper fire from remaining Jordanian soldiers and rammed their way through the Lions’ Gate of the Old City. From there they made their way through narrow stone alleys and up to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. 
“The Temple Mount is in our hands,” Gur reported. 
Religious and secular paratroopers alike were awed by their return to the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland. 
“I didn’t realize where I was until I saw the Israeli flag flying above the stones, said Karasenti, an observant Jew. “I started to cry. Everyone was emotional. The whole nation of Israel was in ecstasy, euphoria. You can’t even imagine what it was like.” 
While Yifat, Karasenti and Chaim Oshri were walking along the wall, Rubinger, who died in March at 92, lay on the ground and snapped the photo that would make them — and him — famous. Within days, the image had appeared in newspapers around the world.

And The Song!

Old City walls decorated for Jerusalem Day, May 2017
Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90

Monday, May 22, 2017

Little Shop of Dentistry

A Tribute to Orin Scrivello, DDS: Was it only last week that Abq Jew was under the care of one (1) dentist and one (1) oral surgeon? Abq Jew has been under so much sedation that he has lost all track of time.

On Motzei Shabbat, Abq Jew celebrated a rare period of consciousness by watching one of his favorite Jewish movies, 1986's Little Shop of Horrors.
Little Shop of Horrors is a 1986 American rock musical horror comedy film directed by Frank Oz. It is a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical comedy of the same name by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman about a nerdy florist shop worker who raises a vicious, raunchy plant that feeds on human blood. 
Menken and Ashman's Off-Broadway musical was based on the low-budget 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Roger Corman. 
The 1986 film stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs as the voice of Audrey II. The film also featured special appearances by James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray. 
It was produced by David Geffen through The Geffen Company and released by Warner Bros. on December 19, 1986.

How, Abq Jew hears you ask, could a film that depicts (some might say glorifies) the Noahide (which is not to mention halachic) prohibition of ever min hachai (eating flesh of a living animal), be considered a Jewish film?

Well ... 
  1. First, follow the links that Abq Jew has thoughtfully provided only for the Jews involved in the production of this happy-go-lucky film.
  2. Then, consider the name of the flower shop's owner - Mushnik. Does this name sound Italian to you?
  3. And while we're on the subject, do (did) any Greeks named Krelborn name their sons Seymour?
  4. Finally, consider that "dentist" was considered a wonderful profession for a nice Jewish boy who couldn't be a "real" doctor or a lawyer.

For those too young to have seen this epic film or too old to remember anything about it - here is how the story begins.
Seymour Krelborn and his colleague, Audrey, work at Mushnik's Flower Shop in a run-down, rough neighborhood referred to as "Skid Row" in the slums of New York City. They lament that they cannot escape the neighborhood. 
Struggling from a lack of customers, Mr. Mushnik decides to close the store, but Audrey suggests he may have more success by displaying an unusual plant that Seymour owns. Immediately attracting a customer, Seymour explains he bought the plant, which he dubbed "Audrey II", from a Chinese flower shop during a solar eclipse. 
Attracting business to Mushnik's shop, the plant soon starts dying, worrying Seymour. Accidentally pricking his finger, he then discovers Audrey II needs human blood to thrive. 
Audrey II continues to grow rapidly and Seymour becomes a local celebrity. Seymour soon attempts to ask Audrey out, but she turns him down because she has a date with her sadistic, mean-spirited dentist boyfriend Orin Scrivello. 

Two Fun Facts
  1. The film's Storyline in the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) was written by Hannah Montaniwitz.
  2. Ellen Greene's father was a dentist.

Truly, to be a dentist is to be a health provider. To which The History of Dentistry proudly attests. But please excuse Abq Jew, as he is off to take another pain pill.

In the meantime - enjoy this video!

About Drugs and Their Potential Abuse

Following last Tuesday's dental procedure, wherein two-thirds of the hopeless prognosis tooth were removed, Abq Jew's dentist prescribed Ibuprofen for mild pain; the antibiotic Clindamycin; and, for severe pain, Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen - generic Vicodin (16 pills, no refills).

Following last Thursday's oral surgery, wherein the final third of the hopeless prognosis tooth was removed, Abq Jew's oral surgeon - without referring to the List of Medications that Abq Jew had provided - prescribed the antibiotic Amoxicillin; and, for severe pain, Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen (30 pills, no refills).

Abq Jew does not recall questioning the oral surgeon's Rx duplication. In fact, Abq Jew does not recall anything between the time he stepped into the surgery room (perhaps 10:30 am) and the time (don't worry; Mrs Abq Jew was driving) he woke up in his bed (5:30 pm).

Was that much anesthesia really needed? Was a double dose of antibiotic really called for? These questions bother Abq Jew a little.

But not nearly as much as this -

Within two days, Abq Jew's pharmacy - without question - filled two separate prescriptions for a controlled medication that the pharmacy keeps in a time-locked safe.

This is how the opioid epidemic sustains itself.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Borrowed Cholent Pot

The Tooth and Nothing But: Oy. As it turns out, Abq Jew will be visiting his favorite dentist this afternoon, and expects to return home minus one hopeless prognosis tooth. Oy. And after the novocaine wears off, who knows if posting a blog will be a good idea?

So here is a simple story - an old Yiddish folk tale - that may have some bearing on the times in which we are fortunate to live.

Once upon a time ... 

Jared and Ivanka (names randomly chosen) lived in a tiny shtetl in - where else? - Russia, a land they all loved, even (some say especially) before the Revolution.

Ivanka's father, who just happened to live next door to the happy couple (Ivanka's parents had been divorced for years) dropped by one Friday morning and asked to borrow Ivanka's cholent pot for Shabbos.

What could Ivanka do? She and Jared and the kids (did I mention the kids?) would be spending Shabbos with their friends in the shtetl three down and one across. So Ivanka gave her father the cholent pot, so he could have hot food for Shabbos.

"Be careful with this, Papa," Ivanka said. "It's the only cholent pot we've got, and we can't afford another."

Shabbos came, and Shabbos went. 

On Sunday afternoon, Ivanka's father stopped by to return the cholent pot he had borrowed.

"Papa, the handle has broken off and the pot is cracked!" Ivanka exclaimed. "And I asked you to be especially careful with it! Now what will we do?"

"Before you blame me," said Ivanka's father, "there are three things I must tell you in my defense."

"First - I never borrowed your cholent pot." 

"Second - I have returned the cholent pot in good condition, just as when I borrowed it." 

"Third - the cholent pot was broken when you lent it to me."

And for those of you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, who were unable to attend Nikitov's Santa Fe performance - here is an encore from their 2004 album, Amulet.

Now, to the dentist!

Tooth Fairy Update
Two-thirds of the hopeless prognosis tooth were removed on Tuesday, and the final third was removed on Thursday. Don't ask; you really don't want to know.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Nikitov Buying A Fisbank in Himl

A Songbird Who Sings: If you thought Yiddish was dead, think again! Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven. It makes Abq Jew wonder.

Which is one more reason why Abq Jew is happy to report that Niki Jacobs and her Dutch musical group Nikitov, now touring the United States, will make a stop at Temple Beth Shalom in Santa Fe on Monday May 15.

Temple Beth Shalom, Sana Fe
Monday May 15 @ 7:00 pm
Click here for Nikitov's USA tour schedule

Nikitov has performed throughout Europe in Amsterdam, Munich, and Vienna (et al). Their US tour will include San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, Bristol, Sommerville, Philadelphia, and New York.

Niki Jacobs’ hauntingly beautiful voice and her group’s outstanding interpretation of new and traditional Yiddish songs combined with the expressive quality of the Yiddish language makes this music unforgettable.

In her show, Mameloshn, Niki presents not only classic melodies, but also brings a variety of beautifully translated pop songs to life in an ancient language.

This concert is underwritten by the Shulman Family Charitable Fund in honor of their daughter Rebecca’s wedding. There is no charge for admission, but donations are welcome.

Nikitov features vocals by Niki Jacobs backed by violist Ro Krauss, double bass player Edwin Wieringa, cellist Emile Visser, and accordionist Peter van Os.

Here is more info from the Nikitov website:
The sophisticated European jazz / pop arrangements and musicianship of the Dutch band Nikitov are balanced by their loving embrace by the lead singer, Niki Jacobs, of her Yiddish roots. 
The result is a hip, sexy, heartfelt yet unsentimental sound that integrates the mellifluousness of the Yiddish language with the contemporary artistry of this wonderful ensemble. 
Performing in Dutch, Yiddish, English and German, Niki’s voice and performance style are pure and loving. Nikitov is comprised of double bass, trumpet, violin, cello and, of course, Niki’s moving voice.
Jacob's Ladder  ~  Marc Chagall

We Jews, it turns out, know a lot about Stairways to Heaven, starting with Babel's City Tower and continuing with our patriarch Jacob's Ladder.

And then there's the timeless song A Fisbank in Himl, perhaps a bit better known as Stairway to Heaven -
"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. 
It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album (often called Led Zeppelin IV). 
It is often referred to as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. 
The song has three sections, each one progressively increasing in tempo and volume. The song begins in a slow tempo with acoustic instruments (guitar and recorders) before introducing electric instruments.  
The final section is an uptempo hard rock arrangement highlighted by Page's intricate guitar solo accompanying Plant's vocals that end with the plaintive a cappella line: 
"And she's buying a stairway to heaven."
What, Abq Jew hears you ask, could be more Jewish than singing about a Stairway to Heaven? Abq Jew's answer -

Singing Stairway to Heaven in Yiddish!

A Fisbank in Himl is just one of the songs in Nikitov's repertoire, but it's the one that really caught Abq Jew's attention. Want the old version? Click here. With the lyrics! As if any of us don't already know them!

Nikitov Temple Beth Shalom Santa Fe Monday May 15 7:00 pm
And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Walking to Jerusalem

Going to Graceland: The exultation of Israel's Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day), immediately preceded by the sorrow of Israel's Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), are now behind us.

And while it is meaningful and wonderful to observe these days in Albuquerque and throughout the Diaspora, Abq Jew must tell you (as if you don't already know) -

Whoever has not celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut in
the Land of Israel has never felt pure joy in his life.

And Abq Jew need not point out that 6,484000 Jewish Israelis live in Israel. Or that, out of the 14.3 million Jewish people in the world, 43% reside in Israel.

Or that we are here, wherever we are, in Exile, and that we only dream of living in Israel after we are dead (see Torah and Talmud and Zombies). Perhaps long after.

Which brings us to La Puerta Natural Burial Ground, which Abq Jew has been thinking about since his recent "visit" (see Opening La Puerta del Cielo).

Others more qualified than Abq Jew have also been thinking about La Puerta, and have even come up with a Preliminary Plan for dividing up part of the 40-acre territory into 341 10 ft x 15 ft burial plots for future Jewish use.

Details are still (of course) to be worked out, and the Preliminary Plan may certainly be extensively modified or even replaced. But Abq Jew finds it of particular interest that, unlike ... those who dwell ... in the Greater New York cemeteries with which he is familiar -

Everyone at La Puerta will face East.

Why is that? Chabad (of course!) answers that question -
I too have found that in many cemeteries graves face different directions, though the graves in a given section mostly face the same direction. After some research, I have found that there is no absolute rule regarding how the graves in a cemetery should be aligned. 
However, there could be several reasons that graves face the same direction in each section of the cemetery. Practically, it saves space. Another reason might be the general rule that tombstones should not be designed to be larger than the other tombstones in the same section. Therefore it is suggested that the graves be placed in an orderly way so as not to bring any attention to any one grave over another. 
While researching this topic, I found an interesting responsum in Jewish law from Rabbi Moshe Sofer, known as the Chatam Sofer (from the name of his volumes on Jewish law). 
He says that, while Jewish law does not require all graves to face any particular direction, in anticipation of the ultimate redemption and the messianic era, when all will be resurrected, there was a custom that evolved in many communities: 
  • In many cemeteries, the bodies are buried with their feet facing the entrance to the cemetery, to symbolize that they will leave the cemetery at the time of the resurrection of the dead.
  • At the time of the resurrection, everyone will head to the Land of Israel, and therefore some cemeteries are set up so that the feet of the dead face the direction that one would take to travel to Israel.

Because of all this, Abq Jew started thinking again. Which raised the question -

When we Albuquerque Jews face East, where are we looking?

Where else in the World, in other words, is the latitude pretty much exactly the same as Albuquerque's -

35.110703 degrees North

It turns out that the only Major World City at more or less that exact latitude (which is to say, directly and somewhat precisely East of Albuquerque) is

Memphis, Tennessee

So when we Albuquerque Jews turn to the East, we are indeed facing

The King @ Graceland

Abq Jew has checked his sources, and it turns out that the latitude of the Holy City of Jerusalem is 

31.771959 degrees North

Which puts, according to this handy calculator, Albuquerque about 230 miles North of Jerusalem. And about 9,800 miles West.

Way back in the Olden Days, Abq Jew recalls, one could only find out where he was by a) asking for directions, which men (even then) never did; or by b) checking his good old Astrolabe (not, as it turns out, a Labe invented in Houston).

But today, Abq Jew has been informed, we have the Global Positioning System, aka GPS. And at La Puerta, the exact GPS location of each ... permanent resident ... is recorded and archived.

Which means, suggests Abq Jew, that -

We now have the technology to accurately point
our dead feet directly toward Jerusalem.
Or we could just tilt them slightly South of East and call it a day.

Ah, but back to Memphis.

Lots of song writers have written songs about Memphis, and lots of song singers have sung them. For example - Chuck BerryJohnny Rivers, Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band, Marc Cohn, and Hoagy Carmichael.

And (of course) Paul Simon.

But I've reason to believe 
We all will be received 
In Graceland